Ag truck weight increases will damage roads, bridges critics say

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Updated Jan 24, 2016
Some officials in Washington state say roads and bridges there cannot support heavier trucks. SR 99 is shown above.Some officials in Washington state say roads and bridges there cannot support heavier trucks. SR 99 is shown above.

Increasing the weight limit for trucks traveling on Washington state roads is a bad idea, according to some state officials who recently talked to lawmakers in Olympia about a bill designed to help the state’s agricultural industry.

Representatives from the state’s Department of Transportation and State Patrol told the state’s Senate Transportation Committee this week that allowing trucks to haul heavier loads of products like grain and timber will raise road maintenance costs $15 million to $25 million more per year.

Senate Bill 6265 proposes that the weight limit on trucks should be raised from 20,000 to 22,000 pounds per axle, according to The bill applies only to trucks hauling agricultural products on state roads.

“We think this is a good way to get our crops harvested and hauled in from fields safely and efficiently, especially when we have a short time during harvest to get this accomplished,” Diana Carlen, lobbyist for the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, told the Senate Transportation Committee this week.

While the DOT did not challenge the bill’s anticipated gains for agricultural businesses, it instead told lawmakers that increasing the truck weight limit by 10 percent would cause 50 percent more damage to the state’s roads and bridges.

“Our current bridges and pavements were not designed for this additional loading,” Chris Christopher, DOT’s director of construction, told the committee.

Christopher’s comments came at a time when the federal government is now allowing states to increase dairy truck loads from 80 to 100 percent capacity, if they so choose.

Some Connecticut lawmakers welcomed the optional load increases through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. They say increasing load capacity in dairy trucks will reduce the number of trucks traveling the roads and save dairy businesses time and money.

HWT related: New dairy truck law welcomed in Connecticut